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Five minutes with: Marion Grasby

A year after taking part in series two of Australian MasterChef, Marion Grasby has launched her own recipe book. She tells us what life is like after the hit TV show, and shares with us her favourite recipe.

Five minutes with: Marion Grasby

What’s life like after MasterChef? I catch up with one of last season’s favourite contestants, Marion Grasby, following the launch of her gorgeous new cookbook, Marion: Recipes and Stories from a Hungry Cook (Plum, $50) and find out what she’s been up to and what her next big goal is. Grasby also offers the recipe for her personal favourite recipe from the cookbook – chilli mud crab. If you attempt the recipe, we’d love to know how you go!

The person that has had the biggest influence on my cooking is … my mum.

My proudest cooking achievement has been … cooking with Heston Blumenthal in London.

My most-thumbed cookbook (aside from my own) is … Margaret Fulton’s Encyclopaedia of Food & Cookery.

My favourite winter ingredient is … cavolo nero (also known as kale or Tuscan cabbage).

My guilty food pleasure is … a perfectly ripe, soft cheese.

My ultimate food hero is … Christine Manfield.

Right now I am enjoying experimenting with … Vietnamese food.

The most difficult thing I have ever cooked was … Adriano Zumbo’s macaron tower

The one food I can’t bring myself to like is … oranges.

The person I most like to cook for in the world is … my partner Tim.

My earliest food memory is … eating sticky mangoes in Darwin.

Life after MasterChef is … a dream come true.

The one dish I wish I’d invented is … croque monsieur – the best ham and cheese toastie in the world!

My final meal would be … a Thai noodle soup.

My favourite easy after-work meal is … Thai green curry.

My next big goal this year is … to travel and be inspired by new places and people.

My favourite recipe in my new cookbook is … Khao Thom – a Thai rice soup.

The most difficult thing about creating a cookbook is … choosing which of my favourite recipes to include.

The recipe I think everyone should try from my new cookbook is … the chilli mud crab.

My best advice for successful home entertaining is … have fun!

My favourite place to entertain friends and family is … in my kitchen.

The thing I most enjoy doing when I’m not cooking is … reading cookbooks. I’m such a food nerd!

My secret talent outside the kitchen is … table tennis.

My favourite foodie destination is … Thailand.

Marion Grasby’s new cookbook Marion: Recipes & Stories from a Hungry Cook (Plum, $50) is available now.

MARION’S CHILLI MUD CRAB

I was born in Darwin, raised in Papua New Guinea and schooled in Queensland, so my memories of eating mud crab span two states, two countries and nearly three decades. Heading out of Darwin you can pick up a live mud crab from a roadside stall. In Papua New Guinea you must brave the local outdoor markets and swat the flies as you take your pick. But it was in Queensland that mud crab became my weekly addiction. Mum, Dad and I would head out to a hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese restaurant in Darra, in the outer suburbs of Brisbane, at least once a week for our mud crab fix, sitting at a lino-covered table, listening to the wait-staff screaming orders into the kitchen and being engulfed in that wok-fried Asian restaurant smell that clings to your clothes long after you leave. Every week we made the half-hour trip because once you’ve gotten your hands dirty, once you’ve splattered chilli sauce all over your new white top, once you’ve tasted that sweet wok-fried mud crab, there’s just no going back.

Serves 4

2 x 1kg live mud crabs *

½ cup tomato sauce

¼ cup white sugar

¼ cup fish sauce

2 tbsp tamarind concentrate

¼ cup Shaoxing (Chinese rice) wine **

¹⁄³ cup vegetable oil

8 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 fresh long red chilli, finely chopped

¼ cup coriander leaves, roughly chopped lemon wedges, for fingerbowls

Tuck the mud crabs in the freezer for about 1 hour to put them to ‘sleep’. To clean the crabs, lift the flap on the underside and pull off the top shell. Remove and discard the grey spongy finger-like gills and rinse the crabs quickly under cold water to get rid of any gunk.

Use a heavy knife or cleaver to cut each crab in half down the centre, then cut each piece into thirds. Use the back of the knife to crack the claws and legs to let the sauce seep in while they cook.

Place the tomato sauce, sugar, fish sauce, tamarind concentrate, Shaoxing wine and ¼ cup water in a bowl and stir to combine.

Heat the oil in a large wok over high heat. Add the garlic and chilli and fry for about 30 seconds. Add the crab pieces and give everything a bit of a mix. Add the tomato sauce mixture and toss the crabs around to coat them well. Cover with a lid, reduce the heat to low and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the shells turn orange and the crab is cooked through, removing the lid to toss and shake them around after about 5 minutes.

Pile the crab and sauce into a large serving bowl and sprinkle over the coriander. Serve with lots of napkins and small bowls of water with lemon wedges to clean sticky fingers.

* If you can’t get a hold of mud crabs, you could use blue swimmer crabs instead.

** Find this at Asian grocers.

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